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Was Sent Back Despite Having Valid Visa To Pakistan, Says US Journalist

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WASHINGTON: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Asia Coordinator Steven Butler said that he was sent back to Washington by Pakistani authorities within 20 to 25 minutes of arriving in Lahore, even though he had a valid visa for the country.

Butler had arrived in the city on October 17 to attend the Asma Jehangir Conference to be held from October 19 to October 20.

While speaking to Voice of America (VoA) on his return to Washington, Butler said, “An officer at the airport stamped my visa with an entry approval, but then proceeded to call a senior officer who escorted me to a nearby office.”

“The officers made a few phone calls and informed me that my name was on the ‘Stop List’ due to which they did not allow me to enter into Pakistan,” he added.

He further said that the officer told him that the list was finalised by the interior ministry without providing further information.

VoA tried to contact officials of the interior ministry, but could not reach them for comment on the issue.

A government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that any person who is part of the ‘Stop List’ could be stopped from leaving or entering the country by the officials concerned.

It is pertinent to mention here that Butler had made several visits to the country since 2007.

Speaking further about the incident, Butler said that he had recently written some critical pieces about the country, while adding that he first approached Pakistani government officials for their point of view.

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Moreover, he said that in the beginning of the ongoing year, he had written an article in which he criticised the actions of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), while adding that he also wrote against the idea of forming media courts in the country.

“Whenever news channels are shut down by any government in the world, we are the first ones to raise our voices against such a move,” he said, while adding, “We condemn such incidents, irrespective of where they take place in the entire world.”

Further, Butler said, “There is no doubt about the fact that journalists have been facing persecution in Pakistan, which has dealt a severe blow to independent journalism in the country.”

He also said that in the past, journalists in Pakistan used to write against the civilian government but now they were criticising the leaders belonging to both the civilian and military setups.

“The army in Pakistan is very popular among the public and is also powerful, so it doesn’t want anyone speaking or writing negatively about it,” he said.

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